Napoli 1, Genoa 1: Massive Let Down

Giuseppe Bellini

After a strong start, a terrible second half let Napoli down in a big way, and a late goal saw them drop two points to Genoa.

A heart-breaking finish to an awful second half saw Genoa equalize late through a former Napoli player. Napoli still can't seem to put away the lesser squads in the league, and this was not the kind of performance you want to see leading up to an important European tie later in the week.

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Napoli 1 Higuain 18'
Genoa 1 Calaio 84'

Napoli came out in full control of the match, dominating possession and forcing Genoa to play on the counter early, which they're not especially good at despite their love of direct play. With Jorginho back in the lineup, though, and Marek Hamsik back in form, Napoli were able to dictate the pace and direction of the match pretty much at will early on, and it clearly left Genoa frustrated as the match wore on.

Napoli had a few half chances early, with Dries Mertens coming painfully close on several shots from range, and Gonzalo Higuain making a lovely turn at the top of the box to strike the ball, but that was pushed just wide. Then in the 18th minute, Hamsik put in an absolutely perfect through ball that found Higuain floating away from Sebastian De Maio in the box. Higuain only had the keeper to beat, and he chipped over Mattia Perin with an almost casual ease.

A few minutes later, Genoa had a chance to equalize, with Moussa Konate beating Raul Albiol and Faouzi Ghoulam and chipping a flailing Pepe Reina. Federico Fernandez was on point, however, and rushed in to clear the ball off the line and out of danger.

That seemed to set Genoa's frustration levels to boil over, and they started dishing out a series of rash fouls, several of which could easily have seen red. Giuseppi Sculli was the worst offender, with a pair of fouls on Valon Behrami that left the Swiss midfielder lucky to not be injured. Possibly the worst foul, though, was an ugly two-footed tackle from behind by Francesco Matuzalem on Fernandez. Thanks to a general display of ineptitude by today's match referee, however, Sculli and Matuzalem only got a yellow apiece for their "efforts".

The second half saw Genoa get back in to the game as Napoli came out completely flat. The hosts would put together a few chances, but most of their possession wound up aimless and ineffective. When Genoa were able to get forward, they penetrated deep in the final third with far too much ease. Even with Alberto Gilardino taken out at the half, Genoa had some surprisingly effective moments in front of goal, and without a heroic performance from Federico Fernandez, things could have gotten ugly.

Alas, the curse of the former player struck again. Emanuele Calaio, who came on as a sub midway through the half, lined up a free kick outside of the Napoli box and curled it in an unstoppable ball to the far corner of goal. It might have been the finest goal of Calaio's career, and despite his respectful celebration, it was almost certainly massively important for him.

It was just a capper on an immensely disappointing half for Napoli. They had Genoa on the ropes at halftime, but instead of putting them away they let them back in. This is just a continutation of the horror show that facing lesser teams has become. Now, 15 points out of first, the Scudetto is almost certainly lost. Even Roma, who are six points up, are starting look harder to catch. This is a bitter, bitter disappointment.

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